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Life Expectancy, Quality of Life and Back Pain

Dr. Anand Blog
October 25, 2016

I read an article recently that highlighted the relative gains and year-after-year improvements of scientific research and health care (in the United States as well as worldwide) culminating in the outcome of an increased average life expectancy that has jumped by about 10 years. That’s great progress, isn’t it? Having an extra decade added to our life on earth? Don’t mind if we do. But before we give ourselves too big of a pat on the back for living longer lives, we have to look closer at the quality of those extra years, and it’s here that we see our overall health has not necessarily improved as fast as our overall life expectancy. I think most of us would agree that living a longer life only to live those years riddled with disease and disability isn’t actually WORTH it. And do you want to know the one condition that is creeping towards the top spot of causing this disability and decline in quality of life? You guessed it: Back Pain.

So what factors, avoidable or not, are at the root of this chronic back pain our country is experiencing and why is it happening to so many? Is it the food we eat, the lifestyles we live, or is it an intrinsic flaw of the human body that causes it to slowly surrender as we age? The answer is: there isn’t just one simple answer. The causes of back pain are as diverse and dynamic as the people experiencing it, and unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. Though this fact may showcase the reason why back pain has steadily climbed to the top of the disability ladder, not all hope is lost in understanding its origin.

The fact that the spine and back muscles are involved in essentially every move we make, sitting, standing, walking, and even laying down make it a giant pillar in our health, and leaves it vulnerable to the elements. One thing we know for sure is that aging is an inevitable risk factor we simply cannot avoid. People get older, their spine structure begins to deteriorate, and the chronic aches ensue. With the “Baby Boomer” generation continuing to age, it is no wonder we see this heightened trend of back pain amongst them.

And then we take a look at another global problem, which although is not quite inevitable by definition, may seem that way given the current statistics. That problem is obesity, which is directly related to a severe lack of physical activity. This is a chronic problem in and of itself, as our bodies were not designed to withhold such stress and extra weight on the delicate structure of our spine.

If you ask someone suffering from chronic low back or neck pain, I’m sure they will be the first to tell you it feels like a pre-mature death sentence. The constant aches and pains can seem to become routine, and some relinquish all control and begin to accept this as their new quality of living, however miserable they may be. It can be difficult to decide at what point to seek treatment from a spine health professional, but when the pain is persistent and disabling, it indicates the need for a good diagnosis.

More often than not, the severity of the pain will serve as a guide as to when to see a physician.

If you experience back pain that is constant, accompanied by numbness or tingling, or pain that worsens at night, it is a good idea to get evaluated. Back pain symptoms can be local or scattered, mild or severe, but regardless of type, a thorough diagnosis and treatment plan from a highly qualified spine specialist is your best bet at setting your pain to rest and putting life back into your years.

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